Sunday, February 12, 2012

Josh, Whitney, Bradley, Ellen, etc.

This is Sunday, and I am going to ramble a little bit.

The Post this week quoted the superintendent of schools in Montgomery County talking about why the schools hand out "reprehensible and deplorable" materials to students. He says they have to, they have no choice.

Is that right? Is that possible? The law requires schools to give students disgusting literature that directly contradicts the knowledge they acquire in health classes?
Superintendent Joshua Starr told a group of high school students Tuesday that he found the actions of a nonprofit group that sent fliers home describing how gay people can change their orientation to be “reprehensible and deplorable.”

The fliers from Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays went home with report cards at several county high schools last week.


“My job is to protect the safety and well being of our students,” Starr said, explaining that PFOX’s message could cause harm. “We are trying to figure out what we can do within a tight legal box,” he said.

Any non-profit organization is allowed to send fliers out to students four times a year, unless it’s considered hate speech, a right that was upheld in a court case several years ago. Starr could not ban the PFOX fliers unless he banned all fliers, something he said the school system is considering. Starr: PFOX fliers saying gays can change ‘reprehensible and deplorable’

PFOX is an organization that uses a cruel hoax -- the fiction that gay people can learn to be not-gay -- to propagate prejudice against LGBT people. By implying that gay people have chosen to be the way they are, and that they can choose not to be, PFOX opens the door to discrimination. And that is their whole reason for existing. There is no evidence that people can change their sexual orientation. The problem is that the president of PFOX has a gay son and wishes he was straight, it's as pathetically simple as that. Well, plus the fact that it is a pretty good fund-raising angle, or used to be.

There were other groups promoting the "ex-gay" idea, but almost all of them have given it up. You might find some bisexual people who bat from either side of the plate, otherwise the only people who say they have stopped being gay seem to be ones who are highly motivated by pay or publicity to say so.

And yet, our school district passes out flyers to students, telling them they can "leave the homosexual lifestyle" if they choose. And the Superintendent of schools shrugs and says they have to do it.

As this article notes, there is an exception for hate speech. Okay, you got it. Stand up and fight. There is a very good case that this is hate speech. It is cleverly veiled, but PFOX talking cheerfully about "ex-gays" is no less hateful than the Klan describing how great white people are -- a nice, positive message, nothing against anybody. You don't have to scowl and stomp your feet to propagate hate, the best propagandists know how to make their message palatable.

We would not expect our Superintendent of Schools to practice civil disobedience, to take a leadership position and make a correct moral decision when his lawyers tell him it might get expensive. His message is that he is forced to give reprehensible and deplorable material to children. What kind of lesson is that for them? Stand up for what you believe -- if the lawyers say it's okay.

The news today is all about Whitney Houston. Man, what a voice, what a beauty. Forty eight years old. It is heartbreaking to see such a soul snuffed out. She denied being an addict, said she was just playing around, and now she's dead. The music business, show business, is a dangerous and destructive monster, and sometimes we lose someone. This was one that hurt.

One story this week did not make the news at all. Bradley Manning has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

This is the moral complement to MCPS's Joshua Starr leading a school district to give reprehensible and deplorable literature to minors. Bradley Manning is (allegedly) a soldier who saw evidence of crimes committed by US personnel in wartime and arranged to let the world find out about it, by passing secret information to Wikileaks. Of course he was breaking the rules of his workplace, and of course he got in trouble, but his treatment has revealed a dark side to our country and our culture. He has been held in prison for over a year without a trial, much of it in solitary, often under "suicide watch," where guards come and wake you up every time you fall asleep. Manning saw reprehensible and deplorable conduct and did something about it, and we can expect him to be crucified for that.

Some members of the Parliament of Iceland nominated him for a Peace Prize, writing:
We have the great honor of nominating Private First Class Bradley Manning for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. Manning is a soldier in the United States army who stands accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The leaked documents pointed to a long history of corruption, war crimes, and imperialism by the United States government in international dealings. These revelations have fueled democratic uprising around the world, including a democratic revolution in Tunisia. According to journalists, his alleged actions helped motivate the democratic Arab Spring movements, shed light on secret corporate influence on our foreign policies, and most recently contributed to the Obama Administration agreeing to withdraw all U.S.troops from the occupation in Iraq.

Bradley Manning has been incarcerated for well over a year by the U.S. government without a trial. He spent over ten months of that time period in solitary confinement, conditions which experts worldwide have criticized as torturous. Juan Mendez, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, has repeatedly requested and been denied a private meeting with Manning to assess his conditions.

The documents made public by WikiLeaks should never have been kept from public scrutiny. The revelations - including video documentation of an incident in which American soldiers gunned down Reuters journalists in Iraq - have helped to fuel a worldwide discussion about America's overseas engagements, civilian casualties of war, imperialistic manipulations, and rules of engagement. Citizens worldwide owe a great debt to the WikiLeaks whistleblower for shedding light on these issues, and so I urge the Committee to award this prestigious prize to accused whistleblower Bradley Manning.


Birgitta Jónsdóttir

Margrét Tryggvadóttir

Þór Saari

Members of the Icelandic Parliament for The Movement

There is some evidence that Manning is a transgender person who goes by a female name privately, but at this time, officially, the male gender is assigned, and we will refer to him in that way until a transition is announced.

Ah, yes, one other thing. I loved this. There are a few people that you just have to like, and Ellen Degeneres is one of them. She's smart, funny, likes to dance, likes people, what can you say, she is just somebody you'd like to be friends with. JC Penney uses Ellen Degeneres as a spokesperson in their advertising.

Some group called One Million Moms, which actually does not have one million members but that's another story, has put out press releases accusing JC Penney of "jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon."

You know I love this. I love it when The Nutty Ones attack the Girl Scouts, and now they are attacking JC Penney, of all the things. What retailer is more Norman-Rockwell-Americana that Penney's? Can you imagine a place less controversial? Their clothes are not fashionable, they are practical and affordable. Ordinary people shop there. And ordinary people love Ellen Degeneres. But Ellen is a lesbian, and to the One Million Moms that's all that matters.

The CEO of Penney's issued a statement:
One of the great things about America is people can speak their mind. And you know, the organization that believes one thing has spoken and it was great to see Ellen share her views yesterday. And we stand squarely behind Ellen as our spokesperson and that's a great thing. Because she shares the same values that we do in our company. Our company was founded 110 years ago on The Golden Rule, which is about treating people fair and square, just like you would like to be treated yourself. And we think Ellen represents the values of our company and the values that we share.

See, that's what it takes. There was a complaint, criticism, and I'll bet there was a meeting of guys in suits where some of them strongly advocated dumping Ellen and finding a spokesperson that no one would complain about. But the CEO showed leadership, he didn't just wait for the storm to blow over, he went out and faced the cameras and made a strong and clear statement: Ellen's values are his company's values.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thursday, February 9, 2012
Ex-Gays Call on School Board to Reprimand Superintendent for Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Demand Ex-Gay Tolerance Training for Staff and Students

February 9, 2012 – In response to media reports that Montgomery County (Maryland) Superintendent Joshua Starr called ex-gay flyers distributed to high school students as “reprehensible and deplorable” with a “really, really disgusting message,” Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) is calling for the Board of Education to reprimand Starr. PFOX’s flyers provided information to students with unwanted same-sex attractions, discouraged name calling and labeling, and urged tolerance for former homosexuals.

“We call on the Montgomery County Board of Education to enforce its Nondiscrimination Policy and censure Starr immediately,” said Regina Griggs, executive director of PFOX. “The Policy mandates that schools provide ‘an atmosphere where differences are understood and appreciated, and where all persons are treated fairly and with respect in an environment free of discrimination and … abuse.’ Clearly Superintendent Starr has violated the Board’s Policy,” said Griggs.

“Starr’s verbal abuse, disrespectful behavior, and slurs against the ex-gay community amount to hate and illegal sexual orientation discrimination, which are all forbidden by the Policy.”

According to media reports, Starr is discussing with his staff how to turn the flyers into a learning experience for students. “Starr does not respect diversity and is creating an unsafe school environment,” said Griggs.

The Board’s Nondiscrimination Policy also mandates training for students and staff to ensure its implementation. “Starr’s flagrant violation of the Policy demonstrates that all tolerance training and diversity education must include ex-gays, which is the only sexual orientation discriminated against in Montgomery County Public Schools. Its Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality lessons promote tolerance of gays, bisexuals, transgenders, cross-dressers and the intersexed, yet fail to include ex-gays, which explains the appalling lack of respect for former homosexuals. The Board must act immediately to remedy this blatant discrimination and include ex-gays.”

Last year PFOX met with Kevin Jennings, former Assistant Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Education. Jennings affirmed the right of ex-gay organizations to have equal access in the nation’s public schools and agreed that former homosexuals should not be discriminated against during outreach efforts for students with unwanted same-sex attractions.

PFOX also met with Joseph Wheeler, Attorney for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Wheeler agreed with the 2009 Court ruling that ex-gays are a legally protected class. PFOX had brought this lawsuit to ensure equality for the ex-gay community.

PFOX attended the Federal Partners in Bullying Summit held by the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. As only 175 attendees around the country were invited, PFOX was among the leaders in the field of bullying prevention invited to convene with the federal government and other national leaders to help stop bullying.

Ironically, Peter Sprigg of PFOX had received a letter of commendation from Starr for serving six years on the Board’s curriculum committee.

February 12, 2012 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's what Ellen said on her show last week:

"“I’m sure the people who oppose it will try to appeal it, but it’s a step in the right direction. So I’m happy… But there’s a group called One Million Moms that isn’t happy about it. And normally, I try not to pay attention to my haters- but this time I’d like to talk about it, because my haters are my motivators.”

“This organization doesn’t think I should be the spokesperson because I’m gay. They wanted to get me fired, and I’m proud and happy to say that JC Penney stuck by their decision to make me their spokesperson. Which is great news for me because I also need some new crew socks. I’m really going to clean up with this discount… After JCPenney didn’t back down, I thought the story would be over… it did not go away. The group has posted a message on their Facebook page.”

DeGeneres then noted for the crowd that “being gay or pro-gay isn’t a bandwagon. You don’t get a free ride anywhere. There’s no music. And occasionally we’ll sing ‘We Are Family’ but that’s about it,” before thanking fans and the retailer for sticking by her. (She also added that “not that there’s anyone counting, but for a group that calls themselves a Million Moms, they only have 40,000 members on their page. So they’re rounding up to the nearest million and I get that.”) Ellen says:

“I usually don’t talk about stuff like this on my show, but I really want to thank everyone who is supporting me. Here are the values I stand for. I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you’d want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That’s what I stand for… I also believe in dance.”"

And look who's defending Ellen and JC Penney!

Bill O'Reilly defends Ellen DeGeneres
Feb. 8, 2012, 5:54 PM EST
By Rick Porter

Ellen DeGeneres has already spoken up on her own behalf about the effort by a conservative group to have her fired as a spokeswoman for JCPenney. She's also gained a defender in another prominent media figure -- albeit from a somewhat unlikely place.

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly defended both DeGeneres and JCPenney on his show Tuesday, comparing the effort by One Million Moms, a group affiliated with the conserative American Family Association, to have DeGeneres fired to McCarthyism and calling the campaign a "witch hunt."

"This is a business deal," O'Reilly says in a fairly one-sided debate with conservative activist and Fox News contributor Sandy Rios (who's not formally affiliated with One Million Moms; O'Reilly says at the start of the video below that no one from the group agreed to appear on camera). "Ms. DeGeneres is hired as a spokesperson by JCPenney. JCPenney has an absolutely perfect right to do that, as you have in your belief system. ...

"Then the Million Moms say, 'Hey, because we feel a certain way about Ms. DeGeneres' lifestyle, you need to fire her.' I don't think that's the spirit of America."

February 12, 2012 12:24 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

I certainly share Jim's concern about the PFOX flyers.

For anyone interested in the litigation that allows the distributions, you can read the decision at

Here is the basic story:

Christian Evangelical After School Program (CEF) sought to distribute flyers providing information to recruit kids for its after-school program.

MCPS was concerned that permitting the distribution would constitute an unconstitutional governmental endorsement of religion, so it blocked the distribution.

CEF went to federal court, arguing that MCPS had it backwards: That since non-profits generally could send flyers, it would be an unconstitutional discrimination against religion not to allow CEF to participate.

The District Court agreed with MCPS, but on appeal, the 4th Circuit reversed, concluding that the school system had created a public forum through the flyer in backpack program, and therefore could not discriminate based on viewpoint. The 4th Circuit relied, at footnote 2, on Rosenberg v. Rectors and Visitors of the University of Virginia, in which the Supreme Court held that UVA, which provided funds for student publications provided certain objective criteria were met, could not bar funds for a Christian publication which met those objective criteria. There, as in MCPS, a public forum had been created by a governmental entity.

Interestingly, In Rosenberg, the Supreme Court (and later the 4th Circuit in CEF) distinguished curriculum decisions, holding that when the public educational institution speaks for itself, it can choose what viewpoint to take. (Otherwise, Holocaust Deniers and Creationists would be able to impose their views on curriculum.) Those decisions to good effect in turning back the PFOX/CRC/Family Leader Network attack on the Health Education Curriculum in 2007-08; in January 2008, the Montgomery County Circuit Court rejected the PFOX attempt to stop implementation of the Respecting Differences in Human Sexuality portion of the the 8th and 10th Grade health education curriculum.

Since MCPS believes that it should keep the flyer program, rather than eliminate it due to the PFOX materials, it has a heightened responsiblity to counter the PFOX message. Dr. Starr made a very good start last week. See However, that is a one-shot thing. This is why MCPS needs to finish the job with respect to what is in the Health Education Curriculum. See

I am not sure how the courts would deal with a "hate speech" basis for barring the PFOX flyers, or with a very strong argument that MCPS would not be required under the CEF decision to distribute material that is dangerous to student health. In any event, such litigation would be very expensive, and victory would not be assured. And, of course, poor PFOX would whine about being a victim. Better, I think, for the MCPS community, and the community at large, to answer their hurtful and inaccurate message. Obviously, though, reasonable people can differ over whether to try to stop the PFOX flyers altogether.

February 12, 2012 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David really is the wisest of the lunatics.

"PFOX is an organization that uses a cruel hoax -- the fiction that gay people can learn to be not-gay -- to propagate prejudice against LGBT people. By implying that gay people have chosen to be the way they are, and that they can choose not to be, PFOX opens the door to discrimination."

no one has ever made a case for this

to say someone has free will is not discriminatory

the only reason it is deemed to be is if you assume homosexuality is negative

and yet, the lunatics don't believe that

so why is the idea that someone has chosen their destiny considered hateful?

"You might find some bisexual people who bat from either side of the plate, otherwise the only people who say they have stopped being gay seem to be ones who are highly motivated by pay or publicity to say so."

this is the famous non-verifiable theory

no one can change and, if they do, they don't count because they were either always bi or highky motivated

how do people convince themselves of something like this?

"There is a very good case that this is hate speech."

could you make it?

because you haven't yet

February 12, 2012 10:06 PM  

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